Crazy for Coconuts!

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The world has gone coconut crazy. This is not all bad news, since coconut is rich in fiber, has many vitamins (including C, E, and B vitamins), and several minerals. However, whenever a food becomes suddenly popular, there will undoubtedly someone trying to profit.

If you type in coconut to pinterest or google a list of benefits pop up:

  •             Helps with Weight Loss
  •             Reduces heart disease
  •             Cures Alzheimers

Coconut oil is a saturated fat. The debate comes to whether or not it is a medium chain fatty acid (MCFA) or a long chain fatty acid (LCFA). MCFA are more more easily absorbed in the body than LCFA. When scientists study MCFA they are using a product called MCT (medium chain triglycerides) oil. MCT oil has 8 0r 10 carbons. Coconut oil is only 60% MCT. Those extra carbons can lead to it being processed like a LCFA in the body. So they studies touting the effects of MCFA may not relate to coconut oil.

Weight Loss

1 Tbsp of coconut oil contains 117 calories and 14 grams of fat so using a lot of is this oil is not a good way to cut calories. The few human studies looking at weight loss have utilized MCT oil and it was only modestly helpful. So at this time there is no solid evidence to link coconut oil to weight loss.

Reducing Heart Disease Risk

Societies in which coconut products make up a large part of the traditional diet have been observed to have less cardiovascular disease, but these diets are typically also  higher in heart healthy foods like veggies and fish and low in processed foods. It is unlikely  that adding coconut oil to the typical Western Diet would decrease cardiovascular disease.

On the brighter side coconut, coconut cream and coconut oil have been shown to increase HDL cholesterol. Unfortunately it may also raise LDL (bad cholesterol) and triglycerides.It is ok to use coconut oil in place of butter occasionally, but no one should be lapping this oil up to try to improve their health.

Drugs that raise HDL haven’t prevented heart attacks as expected. So coconut oil , which raises both LDL and HDL may not be as healthy for the heart as an oil like canola or or soy that lowers LDL.

Alzheimer’s Disease

There is some research looking at whether ketones may be helpful in the treatment of neurological disorders. In Alzheimers, brain cells can lose their ability to use glucose for fuel.  Ketones are byproducts of the breakdown of MCT. At this time the Alzheimer’s Association states that there is no clinical testing or scientific evidence to suggest that coconut oil or MCTs can help this disease.

Products that can beneficial:

Coconut Flour
The major benefit of using coconut flour is its impressive fiber content—six grams in only two tablespoons. it also contains one gram of protein in each tablespoon. Unlike many other coconut-based foods, coconut flour is not overly high in fat or saturated fat. When coconut flour is used in baked goods, it decreases the glycemic index of the food. You can use coconut flour to replace 20% of the all-purpose flour called for in your favorite recipes. Some people use coconut flour to replace the all-purpose flour called for in the recipe, but add an egg for every ounce of flour used.

Coconut nectar: 

This low-glycemic sweetener is made from the sap of coconut trees, but does not have the flavor of coconut, so it can be used as a substitute for agave syrup or simple syrup.

Coconut Oil:

This is a great make-up remover!!!!!!

Bottom Line:

Although the science is not showing us yet that coconut is a miracle food, there is still a place for it in our diet.  Coconut adds great flavor to certain recipes.

Remember that coconut oil is not made for high heat cooking. When coconut oil is heated past its smoke point it creates free radicals which can damage cell walls and cause inflammation. Inflammation can  be factor in heart disease and damaged cell walls can lead to cancer.

The smoke point of coconut oil is 50 degrees lower than that of olive oil.

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